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Journey to Ephesus View Comments
By Lori Erickson

Earthquakes, wars and fires caused Ephesus to be rebuilt six times. Eventually, 250,000 people lived there.

When we think of biblical lands, the nation of Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia, rarely comes to mind. Yet as a major center for the early Church, this ancient land is home to many sites sacred to the Christian faith. Two-thirds of the books in the New Testament were either written in Asia Minor (an older term for the Asian portion of Turkey) or were addressed to communities there. The apostles John, Paul and Peter lived, preached and prayed in Asia Minor, while the seven churches of the Book of Revelation (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea) are located on or near Turkey’s Aegean coast.

Of all these sites, Ephesus is most famous, both as one of Christianity’s great pilgrimage sites as well as the location of some of the best-preserved Greco-Roman ruins in the Mediterranean. The apostle Paul did missionary work in Ephesus, and an early Church tradition says that the apostle John and the Virgin Mary lived there in the last decades of their lives. A well-traveled friend gave me an additional reason to visit there: “Ephesus is a place of sacred mystery,” she had told me. “Once you visit, you’ll know why I long to return there.”

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Lori Erickson is a freelance writer in Iowa City, Iowa. She writes about inner and outer journeys at spiritualtravels.info.

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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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